Mastic is a superhero of an ingredient.
The sticky sap, harvested from evergreen trees on the island of Chios, was originally used by ancient Greeks as gum and prized for a range of antibacterial and medicinal qualities. Now, chefs are taking advantage of the spicy, resin-y flavor in a slew of desserts.
At Sofra Bakery in Cambridge, Maura Kilpatrick's love of esoteric ingredients led her to add ground mastic to her shortbread dough; she pairs the cookie with a pistachio-white-chocolate filling.
Mastic- and-orchid-root-flavored ice cream takes center stage at Taxim in Chicago. Topped with sour-cherry syrup and pistachios, the dish is an upscale study in Mediterranean flavors. Also on the menu: fried loukoumádes--mastic-flavored dumplings--smothered in rose cream and finished with Vietnamese cinnamon.
Sophia Brittan takes the flavors of ancient Greece even further at Victory Garden in New York City. Mastic plays a rotating role on her roster of soft-serve ice cream flavors and makes a cameo on the breakfast menu in a milky, mastic-infused cup of coffee. Brittan says mastic coffee has a cult following of devotees, bound, no doubt, to its depth of flavor and highly touted health benefits.
If drinking it daily brands us as cultish, count us in.